While my live blogging efforts focussed on the more formal sessions at ecampaigning forum, most of the event’s time and content was spent in groups following the Open Space methodology. The gatherings for people to suggest sessions were instructive in themselves as they gave considerable hints as to the key concerns of ecampaigning practitioners.
How to engage with the big social networking sites, whether to create your own, organising around big events (such as G8 summits and climate conferences) and ways of managing decentralised/coalition campaigns were some of the big themes, but the sessions covered a wide range beyond that such as engaging with young supporters, or older supporters, choosing content management systems, operating on a tight budget, pooling resources/tools and one hastily agreed discussion of twitter. What follows are a few notes on things that struck me.
The twitter session drew a mixture of existing users, aware onlookers, and newcomers. A lot of time was spent exploring existing uses of the site with examples such as teamtibet‘s usage to co-ordinate protests around the olympic flame and Downing Street’s account. Most people seemed taken with its potential for short term co-ordination, but many questions arose about its potential for long term campaigning beyond informing core supporters of news updates. Being seemingly the longest-serving twitter user there, it was interesting to hear responses to a tool I’ve quickly come to take for granted
A recurring theme was the adoption of drupal by a number of the big agencies. Most seem keen to contribute code back to the community, along the lines of AI and CivicActions‘ assets module. I’ve mentioned my mixed feelings about drupal before but am hopeful that through events like this we might be able to resolve some of the issues that frustrate me.
I brought up Russell Davies’ 2008 – the year of peak advertising in conversation over breakfast on the first day and that phrase recurred a few times. There’s a general awareness that the last few years have brought lots of opportunities to attract attention by simply being quick to adopt some new “web 2.0” tool, but that won’t last. It didn’t seem like there was a sustained discussion or much sense of where to go next, but working hard to attain attention has been the life of campaigners for a long time and so perhaps this is just another step in that journey?
There’s clearly a growing sense of how hard it is to influence big summits where the final communique is often planned months in advance. Gatherings of world leaders are a great opportunity for media coverage and to present the “actionable moments” that Ben Brandzel spoke of, but they’re now when the real chance for change occur. It’s vital to find ways to turn the energy around these summits into sustained, directed action after the final communique is published, planning the next steps before the events themselves take place.
In the session on pooling resources and tools a number of questions came up about the ethics of collaborating with big players like google (who have just been on a big outreach programme for their new Google Earth offering for NGOs). The data provided and the tools offered by the likes of Google can be a great boon to charities operating on tight budgets, but at the expense of ceding a lot of control and a lot of attention data (and with providers like facebook there are concerns about things like this). It was obvious that there is some desire to develop open source tools that provide similar tools, but it’s not clear whether the resources are there. Mention was made of open street map and I brought up the theyworkforyou api, and it definitely would have been interesting to have had people who could present on the usage of that; some concerns remain as to how ready those tools are for non-geeky end-users, which would be easy to resolve if someone were to direct the right resources.
I’m looking forward to seeing what other people bring up in their notes on the event, and what themes come out in the ongoing discussion. You can see my photos on flickr, find some content on technorati and check out the conference wiki for more. All my posts on the topic are gathered under the ecf08 tag.